Politicians in Sacramento have suggested watering down Proposition 13 by eliminating the two-thirds voting requirement for passing a budget bill. In fact, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said this even as they passed the largest tax increases in California’s history.
Make no mistake about it: if we had weakened Prop 13 and made it easier to raise taxes this most recent budget would have hiked taxes higher on all Californians while preserving even more wasteful government spending.
I understand why some might want to do this. Each year, politicians in Sacramento reach a stalemate over the budget. And each time, the majority party blames the minority for obstructing its passage. Their chief argument being the required two-thirds vote.
I could not disagree more.
This proposal is nothing more than another scheme to paper over the deficit and ignore the real problem of runaway state spending. Prop 13 has saved individual homeowners, businesses, and farmers thousands of dollars since its passage. Even if you bought your home as recently as 2000, Prop 13 has saved you around $54,000 in taxes in just eight years. Since 1978, Prop 13 has saved California taxpayers a total of $528 billion in taxes.
Whether or not they are homeowners, all Californians have benefited from Proposition 13. Lowered property taxes on apartment buildings, commercial real estate, and agricultural land means less costs to be passed on to renters, small businesses, and through the family grocery bill.
While reasonable people can disagree on many things, one of the policies that has united the vast majority of Californians is Prop 13’s requirement that it takes two-thirds of the legislature to raise taxes. In fact, as recently as 2004 liberals placed Proposition 56 on the ballot that would’ve done just this. This measure would have lowered the two-thirds threshold to just 55%. The voters’ response? A 66-34% drubbing that crushed the Prop 56 and preserved Prop 13 and the two-thirds threshold.
Like most Californians, I see the two-thirds requirement as a prudent protection of the taxpayers’ pocketbooks. Furthermore, it’s consistent with the philosophy of our nation’s Founders, who wanted to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority.
It is not illogical to make it more difficult to increase state spending when it means California’s citizens will be required to pay more in fees or taxes. The two-thirds vote requirement not only places a hurdle in the path of a runaway majority, it ensures that the minority has some input into the budget process.
Instead of charging more in taxes, why not get rid of government waste before Sacramento comes for more of your hard-earned tax dollars? How about eliminating unnecessary state boards and commissions and the overpaid bureaucrats who sit on them? Or the thousands of unfilled positions at state agencies that will not only remain unfilled, but whose funds will pay into a continual slush fund? These are just a few examples that I have suggested to cut out of the current budget.
What’s holding up the budget year after year isn’t the two-thirds requirement as much as it is some legislators desire to preserve pet projects and increase wasteful government spending. Instead, we should look for new solutions to California’s substantial economic problems. According to the latest unemployment figures released last week California’s unemployment now tops 10%, with 79,300 jobs lost in January, pushing California’s monthly unemployment rate to its highest level since June 1983. We must come up with something better than higher taxes on all working Californians that cost more jobs.
To jumpstart the economy, I suggest transitioning to a renewable, more energy-efficient economy. Not only will this help create jobs, but it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, improve the environment, and lower energy prices. That’s why I’ve authored bills that will help California transition to a renewable, more energy-efficient economy.
Let’s move away from the old ideological battles of how high do some legislators want to raise taxes and instead come together on some new solutions that all Californians will appreciate.